There he was, the squint-eyed, hawk-nosed leader of the free world, hunkered over a lectern at the State Capitol and talking in that familiar Texas twang about his friend U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman. Only it wasn't President Bush, but a comedic double, performing what DFLers say will be a recurring bit of political theater throughout the campaign.

The shtick, offered by Josh Eakright of the Brave New Workshop comedy troupe, comes hard on the heels of a tough ad launched over the weekend by DFL Senate candidate Al Franken linking Coleman to the president.

The ad features the cover of what purports to be a White House document bearing a presidential seal, labeled "Bush Presidency 10 Critical Issues," on which Coleman voted with the administration, including the Iraq war, tax cuts and privatization of Social Security.

The ad and Bush double had Republicans crying foul on Monday, saying Franken was ignoring the times when Coleman had taken positions opposite to the president.

The Republican Party of Minnesota asked that TV stations pull the "Two Images" ad because its use of the seal may violate federal law. The law prohibits anyone from depicting a likeness of the seal "to convey a false impression of sponsorship or approval" by the government.

Franken spokesman Andy Barr said complaints about the seal were "groundless." He said all ads are run by legal counsel.

Coleman is running two ads of his own -- a television ad of an emotional mother recounting her son's battle with childhood cancer and Coleman's support of a cancer research bill, as well as a harder-hitting, statewide radio ad reminding voters of Franken's tax problems, sometimes scatological writings and off-color jokes.

Patricia Lopez • 651-222-1288